Springs released, denies discord
FOXBOROUGH — Shawn Springs is no longer a Patriot, and doesn’t quite know why.
But with 13 years in the NFL — and a hope for more to come — he knows well enough that the decision was all business, and an eventual return to Foxborough is hardly impossible.
The 35-year-old cornerback was informed of his release in a meeting yesterday with coach Bill Belichick. Springs surmised that with first-round selection Devin McCourty joining recent draft picks Darius Butler, Jonathan Wilhite, and Terrence Wheatley at the position, and Leigh Bodden signed long term, the Patriots wanted to create opportunities for younger guys.
“It’s hard to evaluate and give young guys a shot if you’ve got me,’’ Springs said.
Springs also revealed that during the third week of January, shortly after the loss to the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs, he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, though he emphasized that his release was not related to the injury. He has had some swelling in the knee but said he was prepared to participate in next week’s passing camp.
“It’s not a knee issue,’’ he said.
Springs signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal last offseason, and was due a $2.25 million base salary in 2010.
He started four of the first five games in 2009, but lost his spot prior to the 59-0 blowout of Tennessee. Springs was a healthy scratch for a four-game stretch after the season’s midway point. The Patriots went 1-3, and Springs was reinstated as a starter for the final four games and the playoff game.
“You have no idea how it was for me last year,’’ Springs said.
The veteran also disputed the perception that he was part of the locker room discord, created in part when he and former teammate Adalius Thomas traded saccharine and seemingly derisive “sorrys’’ after Thomas was sent home for being late to a team meeting during a December snowstorm.
“One of the best things about me is my character,’’ said Springs. “I don’t think that ever came across as me being a bad influence. That wasn’t me being a bad guy. That was me being a jokester.’’
“Sometimes, teams are not willing to have that conversation yet, because they want to keep the numbers low and stave those off through OTAs [organized team activities],’’ said Larsen’s agent, Noel LaMontagne. “Others want to get it done, and they were interested. I dealt with Floyd Reese primarily, and he was talking with Bill Belichick through the process, and we were all like-minded and found a common ground.’’
The center’s deal includes an $80,300 signing bonus, and calls for base salaries of $320,000 (2010), $405,000 (2011), $490,000 (2012), and $575,000 (2013), with the possibility to make more with escalators in the final year.
Many teams wait to get through the spring camps before signing rookies, since unsigned rookies don’t count against the 80-man roster. With Larsen signing, the Patriots are permitted to carry 91 players and now have 88 after Springs’s release.
“You have to be strong and keep bouncing back,’’ McKenzie said. “That’s what I’ve done my entire life. Now, I’m just excited to play.’’
McKenzie reported that he stayed in Foxborough after being hurt to sit in on meetings and do rehab work, and has been a constant presence in the team’s offseason program. He’ll be thrown into a mix with a young group of inside linebackers that includes 2009 starters Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton, as well as rookie Brandon Spikes.
“We got a lot of good guys and a lot of guys that are going to compete,’’ McKenzie said. “At the end of the day, we want to win, so let’s get the best players on the field and go win.’’